‘Tis the season of angels and miracles, dreams and impossibilities. The biblical stories are full of the mystical, the magical and the unimaginable (I know, there are also stories best left alone.). The stories we read during Christmas and Epiphany were generated when the world was spinning out of control, when there was violence, war, greed and cruelty, as well as when people felt desperate and afraid of being abandoned by their Creator. Times like now, in many respects, except on a more local scale.
Living in this seasonal dark of the Northern Hemisphere seems a good time to ponder angels and dreams. Why do we tell these wondrous tales at Christmas and then forget about them the rest of the year? Are dreams and angels considered part of the decor, just like Christmas balls?
In some tribal cultures, such as those in Siberia, people begin their day by recounting dreams over breakfast. This tradition honours the dream and the dreamer, and forms a habit of recall. Are there churches that have dream groups, I wonder? How would they work? Did Joseph have such a family? Is that how he knew to pay attention to the dreams we’ve just heard in the Christmas story?
One Christian mystic honoured her dreams by painting them. At the moment, I'm reading Praying with Hildegard of Bingen by Gloria Durka. Hildegard was a 12th century writer, artist, abbess and healer. Each chapter offers a meditation and — in good church tradition — a question. Because Hildegard wrote much about divine light, the first question is, “Have I ever experienced God as warm and revealing light?” Well, yes.
One December, a day after my son Michael died, my husband and I entered the hospital room in which he had stayed. His roommate Steven was standing, waiting for us. I was startled to see that Steven was bathed in a warm, yellow light. I walked straight into his open arms. That light enveloped and flowed into me. It's why I didn't fall down. This past Christmas, for the twenty-second year in a row, we received a Christmas card from Steven and his partner Todd. Over time, he has assured me that he is not an angel. “But Steven,” I tell him, “I was there.”
This is the time of long nights. Grief, violence, fear, pain and illness are long nights, too. And this is when angels can arrive in dreams or visions, at gravesides or in hospital rooms. Surrounded by unexpected light, they assure us, “Be not afraid.” Just as they always have. Paul Rumboldt
, a musician and United Church chaplain, shared a new song recently at Hillhurst United in Calgary:When we walk in faith
Darkness is our teacher
When we walk in faith
Moonlight is our mentor
When questions become answers
In the dark night of our soul
We find our truest nature
When we walk in faith.
When we walk in faith.
Throughout Advent, he substituted “faith” with Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Paul’s lyrics remind me that when we enter the dark, we can find exactly what we need.
During this season of Epiphany, I wish you the blessing of being open to the promised light.
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